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Colleges fear ICE mandate’s impact on international students

WHEELING — An order released last week by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would force international students studying in America to return to their home countries if their college classes all go online this fall due to coronavirus concerns.

To remain in the U.S., students must be enrolled in at least one three-credit in-person course, according to the directive. It does permit the student to increase their online course load if necessary.

West Virginia University released a statement Friday opposing the ICE directive.

“The Office of Global Affairs is currently reviewing the course schedule of all international students,” it states. “Any student who does not meet the requirement is being contacted individually, and Global Affairs will work with their academic advisor to ensure they meet the requirements to remain physically present in the U.S.”

A major concern about the order is the possible consequences if WVU is required to go fully online during the semester, according to WVU.

As it is written, WVU officials must notify the Department of Homeland Security of the change in course delivery. International students would, at that time, be required to depart the United States.

“WVU is aware of this possibility, and we are committed to doing everything within our power to keep our international students here,” the statement released Friday states.

Presently, there are travel bans for non-citizens entering the United States from China, Iran, the Schengen area of Europe, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland and Brazil.

“Students coming from these countries face additional pressure and may not be able to return to attend in-person courses for the fall semester,” the WVU statement reads. “Global Affairs has reached out and encouraged these students to have alternate schedules that allow them to make degree progress online from their home countries.

“WVU vigorously opposes the new regulations from ICE, and we strongly encourage the federal government to adjust its plan and allow international students to remain in the U.S., even those completing a fully online course load. Most immediately, we are focused on doing everything within our control to ensure that our international students will be able to continue their education at WVU in Fall 2020.”

The fall semester is slated to start Aug. 19 at WVU, where there are about 2,000 international students.

At West Liberty University, as many as 40 students could be affected by the directive, according to Maureen Zambito, director of media relations.

Fall classes are scheduled to begin Aug. 17, and the school still intends to resume in-seat classroom instruction at that time.

“There really is no immediate impact on us because our students are returning to the classroom. It isn’t going to be just online learning in the fall,” Zambito said. “For our international students, at this time anyway, we don’t expect a problem.

“We are hoping they all arrive, and things go well.”

WLU students will be required to wear masks while in the classroom. Masks adorned with the school’s logo have just arrived on campus, according to Zambito.

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